Shri Dattatreya is a very ancient incarnation, highly venerated
through the ages. Dattatreya a Universal Guru manifested
in the recess of time of 'Kaliyug', when humanity had gone
far from its pristine state and steeped into threshold of a time
when all kinds of vices had already taken root, and the pious souls
made fervent appealed for the salvage of the mankind surging forward
in manifold way. He had descended on this earth to establish 'Satya'
(the Universal Truth), 'Rta' (the Cosmic Order),
Dharma', (the perennial principles), in all its entirety.
Seer Atri was one of such Seers who had seen
and experienced the Brahman, the eternal Wisdom. To him was born
a son, the product of the Grace or the Divine Will, which was the
manifestation of all three Primal Energies of Brahma, Vishnu and
Shiva. He was ordained with the three energies; He came to have
the concentrated wisdom of the three God-heads, or symbolically
three heads. The three heads signified as Brahma Tejas
personified, Vishnu Ojas' personified, Shiva
Tapas personified. Under these heads, illumination
of knowledge, vigorosity of action and stringency of penance were
represented as three aspects or state of being of the same.
Dattatreya had descended into the realm of world
as progeny of Atri and Anusuya, a sage couple of the Vedic age.
Anusuya became very famous for her devotion to her husband. She
was the embodiment of chastity. Such was her spiritual power that
hard, uneven earth turned soft and smooth for her as she walked
about. This pious woman induced jealousy and envy in others, however,
and the three Gods decided to prove these doubting elements how
wrong they were.
They transformed themselves into mendicants, approached
the hermitage of sage Atri and begged for alms. At that time sage
Atri was away at the river offering his daily oblations. Anusuya
came out and offered food to them. They made a strange request;
the food be prepared and served to them by Anusuya, in the nude.
In the Indian tradition any 'athithi' (guest) cannot be turned
away, as they are considered to be an aspect of God. Hence she was
placed in a dilemma. She smiled to herself and reflected thus: I
am totally purified by the long association with the holy sage Atri.
What harm can the god of lust ever do to me? So I do fear nothing.
As they have sought food from my hands, I look upon them as my own
children and not as strangers and grown up men! Her thoughts
the thoughts of a pious and chaste person instantly
became reality; the elderly guests became babies!
Sage Atri on his return to the hermitage saw his
wife Anusuya fondling three babies. Anusuya said "These children
are the gift of God to us who have been childless so far".
Sage Atri was overjoyed and named them Datta, which means 'given'.
At this the three Gods reverted to their real forms and disclosed
the truth. They extolled the power of chastity and purity of Anusuya
which vanquished the combined and colossal powers of all three of
them. Sage Atri and Anusuya prayed that they should remain as their
sons. They consented and the three Gods merged into one body. This
is how Shri Dattatreya incarnated and is known as Gurudeva Datta
the Guru of all Gurus.
Splendorous form of Datta Guru:
Shri Dattatreya or Datta Guru, an incarnation who
came to light the lamp of wisdom among the people. Shri Dattatreya
is a splendorous form. His face radiates all wisdom and draws us
away from the lures of the world. Though He is the Supreme Lord
of this universe, yet He is a total and supreme recluse. Though
He moves from place to place, His favorite abode is the Holy Audambar
tree (A type of fig type, Ficus glomerate). He has matted hair on
His head. His body is ever smeared with holy ashes and He wears
tiger-skin for His garment. A cow and four dogs are always with
Him as His constant companions. He is an 'Avadhoot', ever
anchored in Spirit, but always overflowing with compassion for all
the beings and the entire creation. He is the embodiment of total
Godhead. All the aspects of Godhead are fully manifest in Him. His
faces and form are ever radiant with peace and divine charm.
The Cow, which is always with Him, represents the Mother Earth
and Dharma. She is the wish fulfilling cow 'Kamadhenu'.
The four dogs symbolise the four Vedas the external
repositories of Spiritual Wisdom.
The trident indicates that He has transcended the three gunas,
which constitute the illusory world: Sattva-illumination,
Rajas-activity and Tamas-inertia.
The 'Sudharshana chakra' , disc indicates that He is
beyond the cycles of time i.e. the past, present and future
and His holding of 'chakra' means He is the controller
The conch represents the eternal sound AUM
which is the manifestation of the Spirit. It is also
the life principle in us and the cosmos.
The 'bhasma' ashes indicated His 'Vairaagya' dispassion
as well as His purity. Ashes indicate the evanescent nature
of all created nature of all created objects and the ultimate
state of all matter.
He always carries a begging bowl so as to teach us the lesson
that we will have to share our wealth and food with others.
The japa-mala, rosary He wears reminds us that our
primary duty is chanting the sacred name of the Lord and meditating
on the feet of the Lord, and our redemption depends on this
Shri Dattatreya, in order to bless His devotees
and the righteous ones, wanders about in the guise of a random guest
at the lunch hour. That's why it is said that a random guest has
to be treated as the very embodiment of Lord Dattaterya.
God's creation was His Guru:
He had twenty four Gurus.
Shri Dattatreya had twenty four teachers from nature
"many are my preceptors," he told King Yadu, "selected
by my keen sense, from whom acquiring wisdom freely, I wander in
. The earth, air/breeze, sky, fire, the sun, pigeon,
python, sea, moth, elephant, ant, fish, Pingala the courtesan, arrow-maker,
infant/playful boy, the moon, honeybee, deer, bird of prey, maiden,
serpent, spider, caterpillar and water are my twenty four preceptors.
Guru Dattatreya gave Ashtanga Yoga (eight
fold path of Yoga) to the world thousands of years ago. Patanjali
codified this knowledge in sootra forms. It comprises:
1. Yama non-killing, truthfulness,
non-stealing, continence, and non-receiving of any gifts. Moral
2. Niyama cleanliness, contentment,
austerity, study and self-surrender to God. Moral discipline
Yama and Niyama are moral training
and form the basis of Yoga. As these two become established,
the Yogi will begin to realize the fruits of his practice.
3. Asana posture
4. Pranayama Prana
is the life-force, yama is control. 'Pranayama'
consists of breath control exercises.
5. Pratyahara withdrawal of senses
from sense objects
6. Dharana concentration.
7. Dhyana meditation
8. Samadhi the transcendental
or super conscious state of being one with God:
Principle tenets of the Dattatreya tradition
The principle tenets of the Dattatreya tradition are:
Everyone should know oneself first and should
know one's own reality, which is but God.
One should realize the relationship between
God, man and creation the underlying kinship, unity
and oneness of these three entities. Brahman is the immanent
and all pervading reality in all matter it is the origin,
the support and sustenance of all.
To obtain this vision and discern this truth,
one should conquer one's ego through Yoga and renunciation.
Guru's grace is indispensable. One has to
surrender oneself totally and unreservedly at the feet of
the Guru. His grace awakens 'Jnana' (illumination)
by which we can recognize the Reality of Brahman, which is
the real self of all. Apart from this the disciples should:
Have purity of thought, word and deed.
Do 'Nama smaran' remembrance of the Lord's name
and meditation on it.
Have compassion and love for all beings.
Render selfless services at the feet of the Guru and surrender
completely and unconditionally.
Incarnations of Shri Dattatreya:
While Shri Dattatreya was the primal manifestation
in "Datta Sampradaya" and Guru tradition, His incarnations
1. Sripaad Vallabha
2. Shri Nrisimha Saraswati
3. Swami Samarth of Akkalkot
4. Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Dattatreya Gayatri: 'Om Dattatreyaya Vidmahe / Atri
putraya dhimahi / tann Datta prachodayat.'
May we Know Lord Dattatreya
May we meditate upon Datta, the son of sage Atri
May that Datta inspire us.